The Orlando Magic fell into a quick, 10-4 deficit to the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight, but a trio of three-pointers from Ryan Anderson, promoted to the starting lineup to match-up with Minnesota's tall frontline, moments later gave the Magic a 15-12 lead and they never looked back, cruising to a 128-86 victory. The Timberwolves simply could not prevent the Magic from getting whatever they wanted, allowing Orlando to shoot 50.8 percent on two-pointers and 48.4 percent on three-pointers. And when the Magic did miss, Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass, with 10 offensive boards between them, were there to clean up the mess or otherwise prolong the possession. As one might expect given the final margin, the Magic put up some tremendous individual boxscore stats. Howard posted 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 blocks in only 23 minutes; the only blemish on Vince Carter's 20-point, 4-rebound, 7-assist line is the 4 turnovers; Bass and Anderson combined for 38 points on 87 percent True Shooting; and the starting backcourt of Carter and Jameer Nelson tallied 16 assists against 5 turnovers. Orlando forced Minnesota to miss two-thirds of its shots and scored 24 points on 20 Wolves turnovers. A Carter three-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining in the second quarter set a new Magic record for points in a first half, with 78.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
This sort of performance should have been expected, really. Minnesota's missing its best offensive talent, in Michael Beasley, and came off a 32-point loss to the Miami Heat the previous night. The Timberwolves did not have much fight in them, and after Anderson's third straight triple in the first quarter, they would never challenge the lead. That's not to say that Minnesota dogged it, though, but it was pretty clear they checked out of this one pretty early.
Howard's influence showed up everywhere tonight. Using Pick and Scroll's Advanced Stats Calculator, for example, I figured he blocked 24.6 percent of Minnesota's two-point attempts when he was on the court. And according to Hoopdata's boxscore, the Timberwolves shot 11-of-20 at the rim this evening, which means they went 17-of-64 (26.6 percent) away from it. His outstanding defense covered for his below-average offense; due to his 4-of-11 showing at the foul line, he recorded a 50.4 percent True Shooting mark for the game, well below average for anyone, but especially a center.
Carter and Nelson kept the offense running with a series of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops; Minnesota covered both plays poorly. From there, the Magic used their signature ball reversals to get open three-point looks or to feed Howard inside. Hard to fault the ball movement tonight, with Orlando tallying 27 assists on 46 baskets. Minnesota, as a team, made only 28 field goals.
If the Timberwolves accomplished any of their goals tonight, I supposed it'd be limiting Rashard Lewis. Starting at small forward for the first time in a Magic uniform, Lewis shot 4-of-13 from the floor, with Minnesota making a concerted effort to chase him off the three-point line. Going in, coach Kurt Rambis would probably have liked his chances of winning knowing Lewis would score just 11 points. But Lewis' teammates did more than merely pick up the slack for him.
Minnesota entered the game with one of the league's best overall rebounding rates, so keeping it off the glass was one of coach Stan Van Gundy's concerns coming in. Orlando executed this aspect of its gameplan almost flawlessly, snagging 58.3 percent of all available rebounds and limiting Kevin Love, among the league's most skilled glass-eaters, to a 14.5 percent individual rate. It was a team effort, with five players grabbing at least 5 boards each. Special recognition goes to Quentin Richardson, who tallied 8 in 24 minutes. As a small forward. He's proving to be an excellent replacement for Matt Barnes so far, though again we're only three games into the year.
The starting lineup shuffle came at Mickael Pietrus' expense. The usual backup small forward to Richardson played only 3 minutes tonight, all in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. If Bass and Anderson keep playing this way, Pietrus should probably get used to watching most of the game's meaningful minutes from the sidelines.
Former Magic big man Darko Milicic, signed to a four-year deal worth $20 million, missed all 6 of his shot attempts and grabbed 4 rebounds in 16 minutes as Minnesota's starting center, also earning a technical foul for pounding the basketball after a made basket. He blocked three shots, but the man whom Wolves GM David Kahn described as the best passing center since Vlade Divac now has 3 assists and 11 turnovers through five games.
Orlando next takes the court this Friday against the New Jersey Nets.